For the Love of Pasta

If I was pushed, I think I would have to say that pasta is my favourite food. I feel genuine pain at how the bad reputation pasta has seemed to accumulate over the past few ‘clean eating’ years, when it is the purest and most delicious of foods. Always there for you when you need it most, nestled in the back of the cupboard waiting to be brought to life, it’s the ultimate in comfort food. I like mine with cream and tomato and cheese and garlic and the more the better, but it is just as good with seafood or ragu or just a simple drizzle of oil and a scattering of herbs. As today is World Pasta Day, I wanted to dig through my archives and find my favourite pasta recipes so you can remember your own favourite dishes and treat yourself to a dish of the good stuff today. Don’t let the pasta haters bring you down – pasta will nourish your body and your soul. It’s just that good. 

Spaghetti Aglio Olio

Spaghetti Aglio Olio 

Simple Tomato & White Wine Pasta Sauce

Simple Tomato and White Wine Pasta Sauce

Spaghetti Vongole // Amy Elizabeth

Spaghetti Vongole

One Pot Pasta

Creamy One Pot Pasta 

Penne Alla Vodka

Penne Alla Vodka

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

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Spaghetti Vongole

Spaghetti Vongole // Amy Elizabeth

There’s something about the chill outside that makes me want to indulge in fresh, light dishes. I’m trying to trick myself that it’s Spring already. I know we’re supposed to be living in the moment, but when the moment involves harsh winds and not being able to leave the house without 327 layers, then I think I’m allowed to wish for the lighter days and (slightly) warmer temperatures of Spring. This is the sort of dish that you should eat at a beachfront restaurant whilst wearing over-sized sunglasses and white linen, not curled up in front of the TV under a blanket, but sometimes needs must.

Spaghetti Vongole // Amy Elizabeth

The thing is, clams are in season right now – which means we’ve got to make the most of them whilst we can. I’m obsessed with all things seafood – whether it’s a big bowl of plump mussels, a decadent dish of lobster, a pile of juicy prawns or these sweet little clams, I am so there. I think a lot of people are put off from eating seafood at home because it seems a little tricky, but that reputation couldn’t be further from the truth. A little know-how is all you need, and this guide on how to clean and prepare clams will set you up perfectly for making this dish. 

Spaghetti Vongole // Amy Elizabeth

Spaghetti Vongole
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 300g clams
  2. 200g spaghetti
  3. 10g butter
  4. big splash of olive oil
  5. 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  6. 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  7. 1 small glass of dry white wine
  8. small bunch of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  9. zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Instructions
  1. Rinse the clams in running water and scrub with a stiff brush if needed. Put them in a bowl and cover with salted water. Leave for a couple of hours before draining and rinsing to get rid of any grit.
  2. Cook the spaghetti in a pan of boiling water with plenty of salt, until al dente.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat until softened.
  4. Add the clams and the wine. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes until most of the clams have opened. Pick out any that are unopened and discard.
  5. Drain the spaghetti and add to the clam pan. Toss together and heat through for a minute.
  6. Stir through the parsley, lemon zest and juice and serve.
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

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Spaghetti Aglio Olio

Spaghetti Aglio Olio

Spaghetti Aglio Olio

How many of us make an effort in the kitchen when there’s someone else involved, a loved one, a guest, a friend, but not when we are alone? I hear confessions of oven chips and ready meals, because it’s too much hassle just for one, far too often. If that is you, I hope that this dish will change things for you. This dish is a love letter to yourself, best enjoyed alone with a glass of wine and your own thoughts. It is simple and quick enough that cooking for one seems like no effort at all, but it requires your full attention. Parsley needs to be methodically chopped until fine. Spaghetti needs to be tested, to be sure it’s al dente. Pans need to be watched in case the oil overheats and the garlic becomes bitter. You can customise it to your exact specifications, just the way you like it. You’re cooking for yourself, after all. Whether it’s a grating of Parmesan, a little lemon zest or a handful of prawns, make it your favourite way. You deserve this dish. If you don’t love and nourish yourself, then who will? 

Spaghetti Aglio Olio

Spaghetti Aglio Olio

Spaghetti Aglio Olio
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Ingredients
  1. 100g spaghetti
  2. salt
  3. 3 cloves of garlic
  4. bunch of parsley
  5. pinch of dried chilli flakes
  6. 3 tbsp. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, finely chop the garlic and parsley. Add to a frying pan with the chilli flakes and oil. Heat gently until the garlic has just started to turn a light golden colour. Keep an eye on it, if you overcook then the garlic will turn bitter.
  3. Lightly drain the spaghetti so there's still some water in the pan. Add to the warm oil and stir together.
  4. Serve with a glass of wine and a grating of parmesan, if you fancy it.
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

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Simple Tomato & White Wine Pasta Sauce

Simple Tomato & White Wine Pasta Sauce

Having a good pasta sauce recipe under your belt will serve you well in life. Pasta is the ultimate comfort food, and I think I could eat it every day without ever getting bored. This sauce recipe is super simple, stripped back to the very basics, but it’s full of those delicious, Italian flavours that we all know and love. You can knock the whole dish up in 20 minutes, so it’s perfect for a midweek dinner when you’re feeling lazy, but equally you can jazz it up for something a little bit more special. Throw some cooked chorizo or prawns in there (or maybe both), garnish with some garlic bread and pour out the rest of the wine into two glasses and you’ve got yourself a meal fit for a king. The key to the whole thing is fresh herbs – they really are worth it in the flavour stakes. I’ve been trying to grow my own rather unsuccessfully, but it is my aim to always have fresh herbs on hand. Because I’m worth it, obviously (and so are you). 

Simple Tomato & White Wine Pasta Sauce

Simple Tomato & White Wine Pasta Sauce

Simple Tomato & White Wine Pasta Sauce
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. olive oil
  2. 1 onion, finely chopped
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  4. 1 tsp. chilli flakes
  5. 150ml white wine
  6. 400g chopped tomatoes
  7. 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  8. 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  9. 1 tsp. sugar
  10. salt & pepper
  11. small bunch of fresh basil
  12. small bunch of fresh parsley
  13. 150g spaghetti
  14. parmesan, to serve
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook slowly for 5 minutes until softened, stirring regularly. Try not to let them go brown - if they're catching, turn the heat down a little.
  2. Add the garlic and the chilli flakes and fry for another few minutes, continuing to stir.
  3. Pour in the wine and allow to bubble for a minute or so, before adding the chopped tomatoes. Add the oregano, thyme, sugar and salt & pepper and stir through.
  4. Allow to simmer over a low heat whilst you cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions (don't forget to salt the boiling water before adding the pasta!).
  5. A minute or so before serving, roughly chop the basil and parsley, discarding the stalks, and stir through the sauce.
  6. Drain the pasta and mix into the sauce. Serve with freshly grated parmesan.
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/
Simple Tomato & White Wine Pasta Sauce

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Crab Linguine

crab linguine 3

In my third year at University I lived with Emma & Gemma. It was pretty much perfect. We liked the same TV shows. We never fought about housework or the washing up. And we cooked together most nights. I think if you’d have come round on a Thursday night at 8pm and seen us dishing out dinner, pouring wine and setting the table, you would never have guessed that we were students. I still miss living with those girls.

It helped immensely, of course, that Emma was (and is) a brilliant cook. I learnt a lot from her that year and whilst I’ve always loved food and hosting and feeding people, without her I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have started this food blog. She made the most incredible things – a smoked salmon lasagne that I crave almost every day, delicious soups, miniature beef wellingtons and crab linguine. She could pretty much just pull stuff from the cupboards and come up with a hearty meal – a skill that I am still working on.

Crab linguine was one of my favourites, and this dish is a variation of a meal she used to make for us. It was so fresh and simple – chilli, garlic, lemon juice and crab tossed with freshly cooked linguine and served with a glass of white wine. This is a throw-it-together dinner; it takes around 20 minutes from start to sitting down, and I usually have most of the ingredients in already. Tinned crab can be a little difficult to get hold of – you can use fresh, of course, but tinned is so easy – but it’s worth hunting down. Maybe it’s just my local supermarket but I found about 50 different kinds of tuna but no crab to speak of – which is a middle class problem if ever there was one.

This dish is perfect for the summer – it tastes so light and fresh. Put it together on a weeknight for a comforting meal in front of the telly, or make it seem fancy by serving it for a friend with hunks of garlic bread (of course), extra wine and a side salad, because side salads always seem fancy. As always on this here blog, this is more of a suggestion than a recipe – you can adapt this dish however you like. A little less cream, a little more lemon. Adjust the amount of chilli if you’re sensitive to heat. Asparagus goes well instead of (or as well as) rocket, and you can throw some halved cherry tomatoes into the mix if you’re feeling adventurous. Grate on some parmesan if you’re feeling crazy, I won’t judge you.

crab linguine 4

You’ll need:

  • 200g linguine
  • Salt
  • 1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • lemon olive oil (or regular olive oil but use more lemon zest)
  • 1 tin white crab meat
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • medium glass of white wine
  • splash of double cream
  • Black pepper
  • 70g rocket

(Serves 2)

crab linguine 1

1. Add a big pinch of salt into a saucepan of boiling water. Throw in your linguine and leave on a medium heat.

2. In a separate saucepan, heat your oil and add in the chilli and garlic. Cook for around 3 minutes on a medium heat, being careful not to let the garlic brown too much as it will give a bitter flavour to the dish. Turn it down if you’re getting worried!

3. Drain your crab meat and break up with a fork. Tip into the saucepan and pour in your glass of white wine.

4. Add your lemon zest (and a squeeze of lemon juice if you like it lemon-y) and some black pepper to taste. Leave to bubble gently, stirring occasionally.

5. Once your pasta is cooked, drain and add your double cream. Pour into the saucepan with the crab and toss together.

6. Turn down the heat and add the rocket to the pan. Stir regularly until the rocket has wilted.

7. Portion into bowls and serve with some extra black pepper on top.

crab linguine 2

1.

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Penne Alla Vodka

penne 2

Sometimes you just need comfort food. Whether it’s a bad day at work, a fight with a friend or just an overwhelming feeling of ‘meh’, comfort food is like a warm hug from within. My comfort food staples have a few things in common – they’re carby, they’re creamy and usually they’re cheesy. Comfort food is different from junk food. Whilst these dishes may not be the healthiest in the world – there ain’t no kale here – they are so much better cooked from scratch and eaten in (some) moderation. They cease being comforting if you get an intense feeling of guilt once you’re done.

penne 4

This recipe is the one I reach for if I’m feeling a bit down. It’s simple enough that I don’t have to spend the whole night in the kitchen, but it still feels a bit special. It’s got everything I like in my comfort food – plus vodka, which although is not my drink of choice, adds a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ which can’t be beaten. You can leave the prawns out if you’re not that way inclined, but they add some luxury that you just can’t beat when you need to treat yourself.

This recipe makes enough sauce for about three generous portions, but I usually eat this alone and keep the rest in the freezer for emergencies. Serve with a glass of wine (or of vodka, since you’ll have it on hand…) and a liberal helping of trashy TV. Feel better, friends.

You’ll need:

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (or passata, if you prefer)
  • a big squidge of tomato paste
  • vodka (a shot and a half-ish)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 175g raw prawns (or thereabouts)
  • 50ml double cream
  • 300g pasta (or 100g if you’re on your own)
  • small knob of butter

penne 1

1. Fry the onion in a saucepan over a medium heat until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more, being careful not to brown the onions or garlic too much.

2. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan along with the tomato paste and a shot of vodka.

3. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sugar and stir through thoroughly.

4. Bring to the boil before turning the heat down and simmering for ten minutes or so until thickened.

5. Meanwhile cook the pasta in a separate pan.

6. With around 5 minutes to go, add the prawns to the sauce and stir through.

7. Once the prawns are cooked through (about 3-4 minutes), remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cream.

8. Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Add the knob of butter and another splash of vodka (about half a shot).

9. Turn up the heat and stir the butter and vodka into the pasta. Continue stirring for a couple of minutes until the butter has melted and the alcohol in the vodka has burnt off.

10. Turn off the heat and add the sauce to the pan. Stir until pasta is fully coated.

11. Serve with grated cheese of your choice, some extra black pepper and a glass of wine.

penne 3

 

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Macaroni and Cheese

mac n cheese 2

Everyone has their own idea of comfort food – the one dish they reach for when times are hard and all that will help is a hug from the inside. However, there is no denying that macaroni and cheese is truly the king of comfort food. It’s like a blanket in a bowl. Carbs, cheese and crispy breadcrumbs all come together in defence of your soul and nurse you back to health. So when I was sent a packet of Old Amsterdam gouda to try out, there was nothing for it but to melt it and turn it into some good old-fashioned mac ‘n’ cheese.

The key to a good macaroni and cheese is in the mix of cheeses. You can go as wild as you want – there are really no rules and pretty much any cheese will do, as long as you mix it up. A hard cheese like gouda mixed with a mature cheddar is just perfect; a sprinkling of parmesan just before it goes into the oven is just the icing on the cake.

I have long proclaimed gruyere to be my favourite cheese – and I don’t see that changing any time soon – but this gouda certainly packs a punch when it comes to delivering the cheesy goodness needed for the perfect macaroni and cheese. I’m told it’s also pretty good on a cheese board but since my other half abhors cheese in all its formats, I am bereft of cheese boards; making one up for oneself just seems a little sad, for what is a cheese board if not a communal celebration of cheese? Macaroni and cheese, on the other hand, is a dish which loses nothing in solitude – in fact, I rather think it prefers a quiet night in alone, snuggled up in pyjamas, watching a trashy movie.

A lot of people are put off making their own cheese sauce, retreating in fear to the ready-made – or worse, the packet – plagued by visions of lumpy sauce, burnt saucepans and a wasted evening. It really is worth it, though – not least for the satisfaction when it all comes together at the end and you can survey your bubbly, gooey handiwork as you lift it from the oven and straight into a bowl. It also allows you to choose your cheeses. It really isn’t as difficult as it first appears, and I promise to hold your hand all the way through. It’ll be ace, I promise.

cheese and milk

For 2 servings (with cheese sauce left over), you’ll need:

  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 20g plain flour
  • 500ml semi-skimmed milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 100g mature cheddar (or another cheese of your choice)
  • 100g Old Amsterdam gouda (or another cheese of your choice)
  • 150g macaroni
  • 5 spring onions, chopped
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • A scattering of Panko breadcrumbs (although any kind of breadcrumbs will do)
  • A sprinkling of parmesan cheese (or another cheese of your choice)

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Mix in the flour to make a paste.

roux

2. Slowly pour the milk over the paste, whisking to avoid lumps.

3. Once all the milk has been added, season with salt and pepper.

4. Simmer over a low-to-medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken. It may take a while, so don’t worry!

5. Meanwhile, pop your macaroni into some salted, boiling water and cook for around 8-10 minutes, or until al dente.

6. Once your sauce has thickened up, add in your grated cheeses and stir until smooth.

cheese sauce

7. Drain the pasta and mix together with half of the sauce, the spring onions and cherry tomatoes.

mixing bowl

8. Pour into an oven proof dish and top with breadcrumbs and parmesan.

breadcrumbs

9. Bake at 180°C for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the breadcrumbs have started to brown.

10. Freeze the rest of the cheese sauce ready for another day!

mac n cheese

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Creamy One-Pot Pasta Recipe

one pot pasta 3

The problem with comfort food is that so often it takes a while to prepare. There can be comfort in the preparation, of course; solace can be found in the stirring of sauces and in the methodical chopping of vegetables. If you like cooking, that is. I am well aware that not all will find it soothing to assemble a lasagna from scratch or to create the perfectly seasoned sauce.

This dish combines the warm hug that comfort food brings with a simplicity that will ease the stress of even a novice cook, still trying to navigate their way around the kitchen. If you’ve spent any time on the Internet in the last few months, you’ve probably seen Martha Stewart’s recipe for ‘One Pot Pasta’, and numerous food bloggers’ attempts to make it their own. This is one such attempt.

With weeks of dissertation disasters stretching out across the summer, One Pot Pasta became my go-to dish. Quick and simple to whip up in the midst of referencing and word counts, this is not a dish which is taxing on your skill or time. However, despite it’s simplicity, it manages to fulfil that niche of food which nourishes your heart as well as your stomach. It’s as carb-happy as the next pasta dish, but with a swirl of cream and a kick of chilli to keep things interesting. Plus, it’s still better for you than a packet of Super Noodles.

I’ve been trying out a few different variations, and I think this is my favourite. This One Pot Pasta thing can be kind of addictive; it goes against your better instincts – that pasta should be cooked separately and drained – but it somehow comes together into a thing of beauty. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can spend hours trying out different things, but the basics will remain the same. Tomatoes, onion, pasta, water and seasoning. Back to basics cooking which allows you to add your own creative flair. Some lemon zest and half a tin of tuna stirred through right at the end would make a summery dish fit for lazy August afternoons (sadly now departed), whilst a handful of cooked prawns and some fresh rocket would elevate this dish to dinner party fodder.

This recipe serves just one, but it can easily be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, depending on how many hearts and mouths you need to feed. This dish is truly your oyster.

one pot pasta 1

You’ll need:

  • 2 handfuls of penne
  • 12-15 cherry tomatoes – halved
  • Small wedge of onion – finely chopped
  • Sprinkle of dried oregano
  • Big sprinkle of dried chilli flakes
  • Lots of basil, shredded
  • Salt and pepper
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 200ml boiling water
  • Swirl of double cream
  • Parmesan to serve

one pot pasta 2 1. Put all the ingredients except the cream and parmesan in a saucepan and cover with the water.

2. Cover and bring to the boil.

3. After a couple of minutes, remove the lid and turn down the heat a little

4. Simmer until the pasta is cooked to your liking, stirring regularly so the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

5. Pour in the cream and stir through. Keep on the heat for a minute or so until the whole dish is piping hot.

6. Serve with some grated parmesan and extra basil on top.

7. Enjoy!

one pot pasta 4 one pot pasta 5

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